Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
The lion's share of the Daytrotter crew was crammed into a minivan headed down to Austin, Texas for the South By Southwest festival this past March, when the Vivian Girls paid their first visit to our studio. Our original engineer, Patrick Stolley, was hanging around town, holding down the fort while we were away. Now, being away while things are still happening where you're supposed to be is always an odd form of anxiety that you'd rather do without, but it was made very clear, right away that we didn't have anything to worry about on this day. Traveling with their tour mates, Male Bonding, the Brooklyn three-piece and their friends were tweeting and posting gushing notes about their time here within moments of arriving at our doors, taping this afternoon in our auxiliary studio (Futureappletree Studio Too) in the basement of an old grade school, right across the hallway from a boutique that caters to brides-to-be. It's a space that's as inconspicuous and as unassuming as the Horseshack is in Rock Island, and the Vivian Girls and Male Bonding took an immediate shining to it. We knew immediately that good things were going to come from the stop by and the session below exudes the kind of chill summer vibrations that the band always tries to send out. They're as effective as they can be, playing two songs from the band's self-titled album and two new songs, recorded here for the first time - all of which show the Girls to be able to constantly turn drags into mementos. They portray petty disruptions with "the other girls," on a new song of the same name, and in it, they suggest that they don't want to lie or be like the other girls and the best way of avoiding that would be to just stay inside and avoid it all. It seems as if this would be the model for all of their problems, cruising or backing away from them, ducking into a drab and protected basement bunker like young adolescent boys do when their faces are breaking out with acne, their voices are cracking every half second and they just want to learn how to play guitar really kick ass or read comic books until they fall asleep. The Vivian Girls have obviously done such a thing as retreat into their darkness, somewhere secluded, and practiced what they wanted to do with their music and it sounds like breathing easier, like getting lost in a lazy day and suddenly sitting up with a start and realizing that the sun's starting to go down and the entire day's been shot to hell. Here they've led us to a place where we can just plop ourselves down on a hillside of grassy meadow and look up at the clouds and try to pick out the shapes. We might see a knife or a pitcher of beer up there, or what looks to be a discerning or vengeful eye, but it's all the same cause those clouds are harmless. It doesn't mean that the Vivian Girls are harmless, but they'll find a way to kill us slowly, singing on new song "Death," "I was walking down the street and I saw her eye lying on the ground and I thought to myself, 'She didn't make it, but I will. I'll stick around.' I wanna, wanna, wanna, wanna wanna, wanna, wanna, wanna stay alive. I wanna, wanna, wanna, wanna, wanna, wanna die, not now," and reminding us that the funereal can still be breezy and citrus-y.